Monday, October 26, 2015

Tijuana, Trust, and Tandem Skydiving

I'm not sure how it happened, but I'm not sure how most things happen in my life. One moment the roommates and I are driving home talking about adventure and doing crazy things and then I blink. Now Noah and I are receiving confirmation numbers for skydiving Tijuana.

We were going out of town for a month and we knew we would be in San Diego for the fourth of July. We are proud Americans, we bleed stripes and cry stars, and we really wanted to do something that embodies everything this great Nation stands for. What is America? Freedom. What is the animal that represents America? The great bald eagle. What do bald eagles do? Fly. Better yet, they soar. So we are going to become bald eagles and fly out of the land of the brave and home of the free and soar back into freedom. We're not dramatic. We're realistic. And we take over the top dramatic ideas and turn them into reality. We at least try to.

I'll be honest, it wasn't quite skydiving Tijuana. But did we stay at a hotel where we could see Tijuana? Most definitely. Did Noah go for a run and almost go into Mexico without his passport? Absolutely. We were going to tip toe on that fine line, blur it if we have to and soar into American freedom. It was exciting and we felt as if this would be the greatest tribute we could do for our homeland and do something worthy of citizenship. We grew anxious as we approached our jump off time. We were scheduled for 8am on Saturday morning, July 4th, 2015. We would be the first jumpers of the day. Perfect.

The night before, I decided it would be the best time to do some research on the place. I googled Pacific Coast Skydiving reviews to see what I could find. Yelp came up so I clicked, read, scrolled - the whole nine yards. It turns out, John is the man. He's the go to guy in the skydiving world. His last name is also Doe. If you don't know, John (Jane) Doe are the names used for people whose identity can't be placed or if their name can't be released due to law constraints.

All these five star reviews started feeling a little phony with Mr. Doe peppered throughout the page. If you google search "Pacific coast skydiving" and click images, scroll to the fifth row you will see an ambulance surrounded by smiling, soon-to-be victims. I have been skydiving before so I couldn't show my fear to Noah because it was his first time and I was an expert. I held my skepticism in. I figured if this place was a fraud, we would show up to an abandoned airfield and lose out on some money that we would get back through harassment via phone calls or by finding a second job for Noah, a first job for me.

Abandoned airfield is not far off from the truth.

We roll up to this gated airfield and with this old keypad on the left. The morning ocean fog was heavy so it added to the eerie-ness of the place. We punched in this code and the gate squealed open. We drive by a few hangers and rolled upon this:

A thousand year old sign.

We soon are greeted by a John (Doe) and I'm relieved there is a John and this place is open for business. We fill out some paper work, sign our death certificates, and get suited up to soar. The morning fog delayed us a few hours as it was deemed unsafe to soar in. While we waited we watched grown men try to fit themselves in those 5 gallon plastic storage bins they pulled the parachutes from. One guy was probably 6'6" and 220. They did this for about an hour and these were the professionals who were going to take us up. Fast forward to jump time, that 6'6" man is a pilot and would be flying us up. We asked him if he became a pilot because women love pilots and beards (he had a righteous one) and he said no. He became a pilot because he couldn't pass college.

These guys were actually really cool and were in fact, professionals. They just really enjoyed themselves and didn't take things too seriously. Noah and I fit right in. John Doe ended up being the guy I would be attached to and Noah would jump with the owner of Pacific Coast Skydiving. The 6'6" college drop out was one of their best pilots. We were jumping with the A-team, the varsity squad of the air.

While we were still in the plane, John would push me up to the window or lean me out of the wide open side door to show me this or that. I felt like I was at the zoo with my dad when I was little - at an age that is old enough to want to look at the animals on my own cause I was a big kid, embarrassed that my dad had to help me but young enough to be okay with it cause I wouldn't be able to see the animals on my own. They flew us right over the boarder of Mexico, exactly what we wanted. Then after about ten minutes, I hear John say "Oh *bad word*! Put your goggles on!" So I did and Noah recalls it looking like we leaned too far to the left and fell out of the airplane. We did some back flips and then leveled out, belly flopping onto the world. He pulled my arms back, put them against my side and we flew head first straight down to earth. I felt like I was apart of Matthew McConaughey's squad from Reign of Fire, soaring with dragons and saving the world from these beasts. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you should need to watch this movie. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life (skydiving not watching Reign of Fire). We did flips, turns, and lawn darted at terminal velocity.

I think being a Christian is a lot like going tandem sky diving with Jesus.

The reason my experience went so well was because I trusted the guy. Yeah sure, at first I didn't 100% but as I hung out with him waiting for our jump time, I grew to trust him. I realized he is a professional and wouldn't be doing something that would put him in danger and in a position to not be able to provide for his family. John Doe said sometimes, people panic and flail mid flight. This can be very dangerous. They could buck and head butt John knocking him unconscious. This is worst case scenario but it can happen. John said if you want the best sky diving experience, I had to relax and trust him. I listened to every word he said from start to finish. Glasses on, fall out, arms back, legs stretched straight - everything. I listened and responded. My obedience to his instruction made my soaring into freedom the best and I didn't have to do anything but listen. John Doe did all the hard work. He went through the hours of training necessary to tandem skydive and jumped over 13,000 times out of an airplane so he could take me once.

Jesus went through a whole lot so He could give me life and life to the full. He suffered, laughed, wept, hurt, ate, and slept. He became a man and dwelt among us so we could have the best experience on this earth. He did this so one day I could soar into true freedom. I have to trust Him though. I have a really hard time with that. I flail, kick, and head butt Jesus when it comes to certain parts of my life. I'm always trying to figure out what I should do for work and don't trust Jesus when He says God takes care of the birds of the sky so why wouldn't He take care of me? When it comes to relationships, I always try to take control and it usually doesn't go the way I want it to. This is really difficult for me as I'm 24 and everyone around me is getting married and having kids. I have plans and they aren't going my way and I begin to panic. Then I blame God and I don't hear from Him.  Probably because I knocked Him unconscious when I freaked out earlier about what I should do with my life.

I don't trust God all of the time but if I listened to Him, my life would be that abundant life He promises us. I seek for peace in different parts of my life but peace comes from trust, not from doing. I found peace once I fully trusted John and I will find peace once I fully trust Jesus. I may not trust Him 100% right now but the more I spend time with Him, I'm sure I'll learn to do so.

in His grip,


Monday, October 12, 2015

Of the Spirit

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22.

Of. The. Spirit.

I feel as if this little prepositional phrase is slightly important. Or, actually, I think it's the key to this whole verse.

Let's consider first what this statement does NOT say. 

It does not say "of myself." It does not say "of my own doing." It does not - in any way - include anything about ME. Or YOU, in fact. It says "of the Spirit." 

This is radical. Let's consider what this does mean.

It means that this fruit - this list of qualities - comes from the Spirit, God Himself. The Lord does not expect me to conjure up these fruits on my own. He doesn't expect kindness, patience, self-control, etc. to pop up in my life like a Jack-in-the-Box. Indeed, it seems to me here that God is setting out a paradigm of partnership: the Spirit's work + the offering of our life (take a look at Galatians 5:24!)  = F R U I T.

As I'm writing this, I'm starting to understand what my issue with the fruits has always been:

They're not about me.


I am selfish.


I like to be the one who gets the glory of success. Case in point: I've never liked group projects because I had to put someone else's name next to mine to receive credit for what I consider to be MY excellent work. 

*insert weeping emojis here*

These are not fun truths to confront in my life. Perhaps, however, these truths shed some light on my problem with the fruits of the Spirit and give me a bit of insight into how to actually go about incorporating them into my life...

Have you ever noticed that when you spend a lot of time with a person, you start to assume some of his or her characteristics? For example, my old roommate, Rachel, used to wear her purse around the house for like 30 minutes after she came home from running errands. She'd put away groceries, do some dishes, put together a snack...all with her purse slung across her body. In August of last year, I was making fun of her for it. By May, I was doing the same thing! She rubbed off on me. I spent enough time with her and watching her and laughing about her wearing her purse for a ridiculously long time that gradually I assumed her habit. I, too, ended up wearing my purse all around the house!

Now, this is a silly example, but I think it applies to the fruits of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are all characteristic of the Holy Spirit. Just like the purse-wearing is characteristic of Rachel. And Paul lists out these fruits right before stating, "If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit" (Galatians 5:25). Living by the Spirit, walking with the Spirit...those statements would assume that we're spending time with the Spirit, right? And what happens when we spend time with someone?

Habits, characteristics, etc. rub off on us.

So maybe instead of trying to force the fruits into my life, I should spend time in the Spirit, with Jesus, getting to know my Lord and Savior. Maybe instead of trying to pop these suckers out of thin air and make them a part of my life, I should embrace "of the Spirit" and believe that when Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us, He actually really did want to be with us. With you. With me.

This is the method I'm going to try from here on out, folks. Trying to make these fruits show up in my life on my own is hard and it's lonely and it's not working. I would much rather be with Jesus while I'm trying to learn. I hear He's a pretty great teacher. And He's wicked awesome company.

You know what, I still wear my purse around the house after I buy groceries. And I hope that as I spend more time learning about the fruits of the Spirit straight from the source, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control will be lasting habits, too.